San Francisco Music Review: HELLO, GORGEOUS! (Cheyenne Jackson and the San Francisco Symphony)

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by Jim Allen on July 25, 2014

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


Handsome, self-effacing, and charmingly humble, singer/songwriter, Broadway actor (Xanadu, Finian’s Rainbow) and film/TV star (United 93, 30 Rock) Cheyenne Jackson could do no wrong in the eyes of his adoring fans, who packed Davies Symphony Hall for the premiere performance of Hello, Gorgeous!, his newly created Cheyenne Jackson in rehearsal for WEST SIDE STORY with SF Symphonytribute to songs from well-known movies. Jackson told us he will be sharing this hybrid cabaret show/concert with audiences around the country over the next several months. Ably supported by his own musical director, pianist/composer/ arranger Ben Toth, and the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of SSF’s Director of Summer Concerts Edwin Outwater, Jackson shared the bill with the estimable Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls, Bells are Ringing) and Australian drag performer Courtney Act (RuPaul’s Drag Race, Australian Idol).

While I’m not quite sure that all the songs presented were actually from films, it didn’t matter; the evening was a rousing success. A consummate performer and committed social activist, Jackson was skillfully entertaining while sharing various anecdotes about his personal trials, tribulations, and triumphs. (He and fiancé Jason “will be getting married in 67 days,” he giddily informed us. Twice.)

That Jackson can sing beautifully is never in question. Bernstein and Sondheim’s “Something’s Coming,” from West Side Story (the concert version of which he recorded with SF Symphony), was one of this evening’s highlights. Extremely Cheyenne Jackson in rehearsal for WEST SIDE STORY, with SF Symphonycomfortable in his body, he would seem to have it all: looks, personality, talent, and luck; an unstoppable recipe for stardom.

The only thing missing during much of Jackson’s performance was something deeper from the slick and occasionally schmaltzy showman. I found him to be more of a song stylist (with a yet-to-be-defined style/brand) as opposed to an interpreter. His emotional connection to the lyrics was often cursory and ungrounded, versus telling a story. I wanted this handsome, charismatic powerhouse performer to sing to me, as opposed to performing for me.

Faith PrinceA perfect illustration of this was his rendition of “Moon River,” the Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer ballad from Breakfast at Tiffany’s: It was all about the notes and not the message. This became even more apparent when irrepressible Broadway star Faith Prince joined Jackson for two duets and a solo: Frank Loesser’s “Sue Me” (from Guys and Dolls), and Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s “Suddenly Seymour” and “Somewhere That’s Green” (both from Little Shop of Horrors). In all three, Prince’s authenticity, integrity, and deep personal connection with the material, combined with her massive voice and comedic abilities, raised the evening to a whole new level. In particular, her performance of “Somewhere That’s Green” was heartbreaking and captivating. During their duets, Prince seemed to pull Jackson up with her, a pleasure to behold. The fact that composers, lyricists, and librettists aren’t climbing over each other to write new shows for her is a mystery. Faith Prince is a national treasure.

Cheyenne Jackson with SF Symphony - POSTERThe San Francisco Symphony continues to justify its reputation as one of the premier symphony orchestras of the world. Opening the evening with Jule Stein’s “Overture” from Gypsy (arranged by Sid Ramin, it’s arguably the finest overture ever composed for a musical), they further distinguished themselves with an amazing medley knitted together from the underscoring of The Wizard of Oz, using the original 1939 orchestrations. It was a breathtaking and spectacular high point of the evening, and the appreciative SRO audience responded strongly.

Courtney Act.The inclusion of drag performer Courtney Act in the line-up was a bit of a head scratcher. Her brief duet with Jackson, a medley of songs from Moulin Rouge, comprised the entirety of her performance. I would have enjoyed seeing some solos from this talented and lovely artist. (An encore of her acclaimed solo show Boys Like Me opens Off-Broadway three days after Jackson’s show closes tonight.)

Closing the highly pleasurable and engaging two-hour show, Jackson sat alone on the edge of the stage, gently singing a heartfelt “Rainbow Connection,” Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher’s lovely tune from The Muppet Movie. Considering the title, he delivered in those final two minutes what was ironically his most connected performance of the evening.

Cheyenne Jackson

photos courtesy of SF Symphony (no production photos available)

Hello, Gorgeous!
Cheyenne Jackson and the San Francisco Symphony
Davies Symphony Hall
scheduled to end on July 25, 2014
for tickets, call 415-864-6000 or visit

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